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MUS 228: Pedagogy: Find Primary Sources

What are primary and secondary sources?

Primary sources are firsthand accounts of an event, person or other object of study.

Secondary sources interpret and analyze the object of study, often drawing on primary sources. 

This video uses the Kennedy assassination to illustrate examples of primary and secondary sources. What would primary and secondary sources for a music research topic look like? 

Finding primary sources at Armacost Library

Use the library catalog to find primary sources in the Armacost Library collection.

Here are some examples:

Barney Childs Collection

The Barney Childs Collection

Composer and former University of Redlands professor Barney Childs donated this collection to Armacost Library shortly before his death in 2000. It includes diverse material - everything from published essays and manuscript scores to handwritten postcards and notes scribbled on the backs of envelopes - all offering insight into Childs' lively character and influential ideas about composition. Visit Armacost Library special collections to see the collection for yourself.

Finding primary sources online

Museums, archives and libraries bear much of the responsibility for preserving historical primary source documents. Often they receive collections of documents as a donation, or gift, and describe the contents of the collection at a general level in a finding aid.

Today, libraries and archives will often digitize primary source documents, provided that they have sufficient funding and can get copyright permission from the rightsholders. An increasing number of primary sources are available online.

Finding primary sources at other libraries

If a primary source document has not been digitized, you will need to travel to the holding institution to view it. Learn about the institution's access policies and schedule an appointment ahead of time.